Last year, no one really expected Carson to hang tough with Reed, but the Senators led by 10 early in the fourth quarter and the Raiders had to fight back to win by four and advance out of the first round.
While Carson no longer has point guard Brandi Vega, senior Gina Bianchi is back for the Sierra League's third seed. The 5-foot-8 wing enjoyed her time at the east Sparks school last year, knocking down five of her team's 10 3-pointers en route to a 21-point performance.
Bianchi is leading the Senators with 12 points per game this season, and junior guard Whitney Nash adds about 11 points per outing.
"I'm excited. It's at home. Carson was our first-round opponent last year and they gave us a good game," Reed girls basketball coach Sara Schopper said. "We went out and watched them last night (Friday) because I wanted my girls to stay focused. I think we have more size than them. If Honour (Knudsen) and Micah (Walker) can have a good game inside, we'll be right there.
"They have some shooters we have to be aware of. But it will be anybody's game."
Both teams won nine league games this winter. The Raiders went 9-3 with two losses to Reno and one to North Valleys, which was good enough to secure the High Desert League's second seed.
Carson finished 9-5 in Sierra League action. The Senators were swept by Galena and split the series with Bishop Manogue, Fallon and Douglas to take third.
Both squads went 1-1 in their final two league contests. Reed (18-7 overall) has had three difficult tests in a row, winning at Hug, losing to North Valleys at home and winning at Spanish Springs. Schopper likes the fact her team could not coast into the playoffs like years past.
"It's great because the last few years we haven't had to battle like this," Schopper said. "Sometimes we don't get that close-game experience. Right now, I'm feeling good because we've had three close games in a row. Even that loss helped us because now we're a little more aware. If we didn't lose, we probably wouldn't have gone back to the basics. The girls know it's anybody's game right now. You can't predict any game right now."
Reed and Carson have not faced off this year in non-league, but the Senators did lose to Spanish Springs 46-41 on Dec. 11 in a tournament.
Much has changed since then and not all of it was good for Reed. It appears Raiders sophomore post Nyasha LeSure will not be healthy enough to play Wednesday. Schopper said she hopes LeSure will be cleared to play for the regional semifinals if her team advances.
Reed, which lost two players to injury prior to last year's regional championship game, has had a history of injury issues, and it weighs on Schopper's decisions late in games.
"It's always hard in close games like this because you don't want to get anybody hurt," Schopper said after Saturday's win. "We're trying to stay as healthy as possible, but you don't want to leave your starters out there too long or they might get hurt."
Knudsen stepped up big in LeSure's absence for the Raiders' regular-season finale, scoring 18 points against Spanish Springs Saturday.
Reed's Player of the Year candidate, Danielle Peacon, stands at 6-foot-2 and could have a big game against the Senators, who don't dress anyone close to 6 -foot However, Carson was able to counter Douglas' size Friday by utilizing a 3-2 zone in its 44-33 win.
In 26 games, the Senators earned a 16-10 record and averaged about 50 points per game while allowing just under 47.
Reed has suffered through some growing pains this season, but with six seniors, the Blue and Gold will be determined not to go home early.
"It's like I told my six seniors. This could be it for them, so I'm hoping they come out with that fire," Schopper said. "Sometimes when you have next year to look forward to, you're not always mentally there. I've got six of them I'm losing, so they've got to come out and play."
The Raiders do benefit from their No. 2 seeding by more than just hosting a first-round game. By being on the opposite side of the bracket as Reno, the favorites to win the North, Reed won't have to face the Huskies until the championship game.
If the Raiders reach the title tilt, they automatically qualify for the state tournament since the North is hosting state this year. Not only that, but the North's No. 2 seed gets the Sunrise champion in the state semifinals and would avoid playing a Bishop Gorman or Centennial type powerhouse until the state championship game.
However, if Reed does get past Carson, Sierra League champion Galena could likely be standing in its way. The Grizzlies are 24-2 this campaign and beat the Raiders by 11 during the first week of the season.
Galena hosts HDL No. 4 seed Hug Wednesday.
On the other side of the bracket, Reno welcomes the winner of today's play-in game between Fallon and Douglas to town, while North Valleys goes to Manogue. All games are scheduled for 7 p.m. The regional semifinals continue Friday and Saturday at Spanish Springs High School.